24.01.2013 - 24.01.2013 14 °C
The night proved to be a cold one in our latest home. It took several hours for the place to get heated, forcing me to wear my long johns with pajama bottoms and pullover on top of them to bed. Fortunately, we have now reached a reasonable temperature. In part, it's because it's quite a large place, with a sizable master bedroom and living area, a long hallway and high ceilings.
Breakfast is included here so we ventured over to 'the hut' this morning, a cozy octogon-shaped, sloped-roof dwelling in which our Sicilian host provided us with our start to the day. It consisted of filo pastries filled with the standard Sicilian ricotta cream cheese mixture, still warm from the bakery run. This was supplemented with homemade marmalade and freeze-squeezed orange juice, both prepared by the matriarch of the family using produce from the large orchard in which we currently stay. The juice was so good I downed Hannah's as well and was looking around for a third glass, when we were invited to have something hot to drink. The mother speaks to us as if we knew Italian (I understand about one in every thirteen words due to there being many English words with Latin roots). But somehow, she seems to get her points across. The daughter is quite fluent, having lived in England for a year, and she is very personable. She, too, emphasized the dire economics in Italy but said family businesses are likely the strongest opportunity for the younger crowd as they can band together to support each other. Three generations live together on this farm; the rental business seems to merely supplement the other endeavour as we are the only residents currently.
We went into Syracuse for a few hours today. Lauded as a city with interesting sights, it nonetheless proved a bit of a disappointment for us (not that we mean to complain...!) We spent the first hour circling the island of Ortygia, the old part of the city which is accessible by a bridge, hugging the beach promenade in order to soak up as much sun as possible. When the sun disappeared, the wind could become frightfully cold. Feeling the cold the most of any of us, Abby was in countless layers, buffeted against and prepared for anything. The buildings were in quite a decayed state and, sadly, we saw much graffiti along the promenade. We did see a few interesting buildings, most notably, the duomo (cathedral). Originally the site of the Temple of Athena, the original Doric columns of the temple (dated 470 BC) were incorporated into the cathedral, which stems from the 7th century. Much of the church is newer, with various parts having been modified over the years. I particularly loved its high ceilings; the interior wrought iron gates; and the marble floor, its various inlays making it a work of art on its own. We saw it at midday, when the sun shone through the stained glass windows and reflected the chandeliers on the stone walls, an arresting sight that drew many photographers.
Lunch was a quick repast of pizza and panini and we were thankful we found a small place to shelter us from the rains that came. My panini was really tasty, a salami, cheese and lettuce affair rolled in a wrap and toasted. Abby elected to try the hot dog pizza, not a combination I would have been up to ordering, but a small bite did bring back memories of those 'pizza dogs' I loved as a kid. We chased the food down with our daily gelato ration, branching out into new flavours: Kit Kat and Nutella. As the server was putting the Nutella gelato into my cup, I noted it was being scooped out as chunks rather than the usual creamy consistency. When I asked him about this, he said that was the way the Nutella flavour came. Hmmm. I wasn't convinced but accepted it anyway. It was more like Nutella fudge ... and Abby ended up loving it.
We took a look at the Fountain of Diana, in the Piazza Archimedes. And speaking of Archimedes, note that he`s the guy who came up with the Archimedes Screw and the Claw of Archimedes. He was a Greek physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer and is generally considered to be the greatest mathematician of antiquity. There is a story about him of which you may be familiar: his understanding of the displacement of water in his bathtub caused him to yell `Eureka`and run naked into the town square. However, this anecdote is largely thought to be legend only. Similarly, although the story of his death proves good reading, it is not known whether it is accurate either. Apparently, in 212 BC, when Roman forces captured the city of Syracuse after a two-year-long siege, Archimedes was contemplating a mathematical diagram. A Roman soldier commanded him to come and meet the general but he declined, saying that he had to finish working on the problem. (Muriel`s editorial comment: I understand this feeling totally.) Enraged, the soldier killed Archimedes with his sword. General Marcellus was reportedly angered by the death, as he considered Archimedes a valuable scientific asset and had ordered that he not be harmed. (It wouldn`t be hard to guess what happened to the soldier.)
In the afternoon, we walked back into the newer part of Syracuse, feeling our way through the city to reach the Santuario Madonna delle Lacrime, or the "Our Lady of Tears" sanctuary. Designed to evoke a gigantic teardrop, the church was created to house the statue of the Madonna that reputably wept for five days in 1953. Pilgrims still visit every year. It is a massive structure that dominates the city`s skyline, rising 75 meters. Architecturally, I think it belongs in Barcelona; it`s another one for you to visit, Jim. We arrived home in time to cook supper (thanks again, Hannah), to blog and to do more planning. Tomorrow is another day.